CAUTION – PROHIBIDO! Is this a message that represents tolerance in Ocean Beach?

by on July 22, 2011 · 37 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Ocean Beach, Popular

It went in about a year ago, another cheap souvenir shop on Newport Avenue. You probably walk by it at least once a week, Pacifica Fashion at 4949 Newport Avenue, between the Old Townhouse Restaurant and Margaritas. Out front stand a couple of lily white mannequins modeling Rastafarian head gear, a rack of $5 bikinis, and hanging from the front edifice are a number of cheap t-shirts referencing OB, surfing and weed. When it opened about a year ago, I thought to myself sarcastically, “Good another cheap tourist shop selling crap, just what OB needs.” Admittedly and disdainfully, I have never been inside.

This morning after breakfast with Dad, I noticed a new t-shirt hanging out front, and this one really caught my eye. It was of the old signs which use to line I-5 near the San Clemente Border Patrol Checkpoint. You know the one, the silhouette of the Papa, Mama, and Baby running. Above the silhouette is the word “CAUTION,” and below “PROHIBIDO.” Below the faux yellow signage, were the words “Ocean Beach, Ca.”

Now perhaps I am still a bit sensitive after last year’s sticker-fest, but as I walked away it occurred to me, is this t-shirt anti-immigrant? After all, we never had any of these signs up in OB, in fact they had been removed some time ago from the I-5 corridor. The only community to which the signage was directed was the immigrant community in an attempt to keep people from trying to cross the freeway. So what was the point of this t-shirt?

The more I thought about, perhaps over-thought, what is the message supposed to be. Certainly it is a far cry from the t-shirts which read, “My parents visited OB, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt,” or, “one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor…” and all the other equally inane t-shirt messages out there. This t-shirt is a political statement about immigration, or rather anti-immigration which is, whether you like it or not, is free speech, and despite its direct attack on the immigrant population, it is not hate speech.

I have learned to put up with offensive t-shirts, and bumper stickers for ages. Learning to tolerate pro-Bush bumper stickers for eight years was an exercise in extreme tolerance. But what really annoyed me was the attachment of Ocean Beach to this message. Given the number of immigrants, legally here, and some not so much so, it is hurtful for someone to try to make OB something it isn’t; a place of hate and prejudice against the immigrant population. Ironically, I am sure the restaurants on either side have their fair share of immigrant workers. Their presence does seem to keep us in OB from filling the tables at either one, on any given day of the week.

Maybe I should say, OB wasn’t such a place.

I have begun to notice the ill winds of intolerant change in OB, and I for one, do not care for it. It did not start with the infamous stickers last year, and it certainly has not ended there either. Why just in the past two weeks, a fellow at the end of Del Mar Avenue decided the beach, the cliffs and all he could see was his. And this modern day Yertle the Turtle decided, as king of all he could see, to remove two permitted, legally placed memorial benches from a public space. It was just too noisy with all those people coming down and enjoying his cliffs, his ocean and his view. Never mind the two families he hurt… they don’t live here why should I care, it’s my ocean, my cliffs, my view. Never mind the public whose tax dollars maintain the integrity of the surrounding area, including prevention of erosion to his cliffs, his ocean, his view. Perhaps he will mind, however, when he has to pay his attorney to represent him in what is more than likely going to be a criminal and perhaps even a civil suit. And like good old Yertle, his little pond will be all of which he will be king.

So maybe it is time for us OBeachians to give up our personal little centers of the universe and begin taking into account consequences of our actions on others. Maybe if we think before we act, just a second or two, and remember who we might hurt… or better yet, who we might not hurt, we can make OB the way it was. I’ll give it a try, will you?

Peace, Jack

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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Shane Finneran July 22, 2011 at 9:48 am

Maybe this shirt is a pathetic attempt to create some controversy and then cash in? Because the shirt’s not funny, its message is unclear, and its reference to OB makes no sense. Weak stuff, Pacifica Fashion.


Jettyboy July 22, 2011 at 10:04 am

I think you may be on to something Shane. Remember the Black episode those racist/capitalists made even more money and brought more shoppers into their store, after the protest. More thought should be given in this instance so they don’t come out on top selling this shit to tourists.


Christopher Moore July 22, 2011 at 12:31 pm

It’s just real life trolling: doing something that ticks people off to get attention, and thus free advertising.


Danny Morales July 26, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Hey guys!- I have a picture of a Pacifico ‘T’on my cell phone that I took b4 the brahoohaha w/the Bum Sticker. “WELCOME TO AMERICA – Now Speak English” (red,white & blue double battle standards, big bald eagle etc.) and I can send it to you if you’d like.
The point is that yes this is part of a marketing plan but it’s broader in scope and more deeply imbedded in popular culture than appears in plain sight. I’ts what state capitalism does when they are trying to sell you the latest war, pogrom, or redevelopment scheme. Anybody here live in the ‘War Zone’ or heard the supporters of the Cox residence claim that the 5k block of W. Pt. Loma was filled w/drug addicts or the OBMA claim ( at the recent planning board ad hoc committee meeting ) that the historic OB Plunge had been turned into a garbage dump (yeah, for the 3 coffee cups that I found there).

Sadly enough Pacifica Fashions is only the the tip of a facist iceberg were headed towards and the Ocean Beach Community like the poor schlubs in steerage. 8>}P


Pat July 22, 2011 at 10:03 am

Thanks for pointing this out Jack. As a t-shirt printer of 35yrs in OB I have to admit I’ve printed some off color designs, but nothing ever intended to be hurtful or hateful. I too have noticed some of the ill winds of tolerence change, and don’t like some of the things I have witnessed in the last few years. I will be one of those who work toward keeping OB the way it was. Peace, Pat



Jack July 22, 2011 at 10:55 am

Thank you Pat, I will work on it just as hard as anyone else…we are all flawed in this respect, but if we recognize our own shortcomings, then we can start to fix them.

Peace, Jack


tj July 22, 2011 at 10:21 am

“Now perhaps I am still a bit sensitive after last year’s sticker-fest”

I agree with you, the “B’s” sticker sucked.

Though I wouldn’t personally wear it, much less buy it – the T-shirt doesn’t bother me.

What does it mean? Don’t run across the Hwy – you may be killed. Is the meaning deeper, placed on a t-shirt? I don’t know, or care.

Sometimes we’re too hyper-sensitive, trying to read between the lines. T shirts are an expression of the wearer – & that reflects them, like it or not. Not like some annonymously placed sticker, disparaging the less fortunate.

My opinion on the t-shirt – who cares.


Goatskull July 22, 2011 at 10:48 am

“What does it mean? Don’t run across the Hwy – you may be killed”

I always thought it was to warn drivers to watch out for people running accross the freeway.


RuthAnn July 22, 2011 at 10:56 am

It’s a sign placed only near the border crossing, attempting to warn illegal border crossers that they should not attempt to cross one of our freeways. I should know – I used to work the San Ysidro area and took a number of those illegal border crossers to the hospital in the back of my ambulance. I also left a number of them roadside covered with those “yellows”. Although an earnest attempt to keep our illegal border crossers safe, the use of this on a t-shirt has a different feel to it. Definitely one that is incongruous with how life was when I grew up in OB. Should there be one place left on earth where we can live and let live?


tj July 24, 2011 at 7:08 am

“I always thought it was to warn drivers to watch out for people running accross the freeway.” GoatSkull

You are right GS, thanks for the clarification, see the link below for the sign’s story.

“It’s a sign placed only near the border crossing” RuthAnn

RA – there are signs N of Oceanside on the I5, & N of Escondido on the I15 too.


RuthAnn July 22, 2011 at 10:57 am

…and yes, to warn motorists also to watch for families crossing the roadway.


tj July 26, 2011 at 8:58 am

“It’s a sign placed only near the border crossing” RuthAnn

Is what you said. I’m not to big to to admit it if I’m wrong. Why are you?


Terrie Leigh Relf July 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm

This is what I thought it meant, too, but as a long-time San Diego resident, I know that it has been construed to specifically refer to immigrants crossing.


Alissa July 22, 2011 at 11:20 am

Thanks Jack, I’m with you all the way! I can’t stand that store, literally makes me want to vomit, just like the sticker… when we walk by the huge one in The Strand and my son wants to look at all the junk, we always always say ‘no way, it’s not supposed to be there’. Ha ha ha ha. Oh well, such is life, I guess… we’ll just have keep on the loving OB for what it is. Maybe when the benches are back there should be a ho-down of sorts to celebrate the real OB!


RB July 22, 2011 at 11:25 am

It is better to just wear a Darwin T-shirt as a universal warning against bad decisions.


Jack July 22, 2011 at 11:34 am

Good idea, but what about those who do not believe in evolution? Or is that just a part of the evolutionary process?


RB July 22, 2011 at 11:53 am

Both those on the far right who don’t believe in evolution and those on the far left who don’t believe in supply and demand will be replaced over several generations.


Conscious Alliance July 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm

Not sure if its the same person, but I was down Bermuda beaches one day and this grumpy dude with binoculars was screaming at kids with a megaphone to stop carving the rocks…

I personally enjoy many of the carvings.

The megaphone guy was a old jerk.


doug July 23, 2011 at 7:32 am

if this store that seems to have everyone so upset was to close then what?an empty store,no tax being paid,no jobs.if bumper stickers and tee shirts are upseting to you don’t look at them,don’t buy them,but above all don’t be so thin skined.these are vehicles of free speach.there are always going to be forces out in the world that are going to shut down free speach becuse a small group does not like what the mass says or even belives.with out free speach like it or not you end up a socialist-no thank you.but if this store does close due to pressure from small groups,then that would be a perfect location for a starbucks.a positive move ,jobs,taxs paid,a realy good coffee.yummy


Jack July 23, 2011 at 7:44 am

Thank you for joining in Doug. I appreciate open debate. I will not, however, respond to your post further because it appears you missed the entire point of the column. To argue questionably relevant tangential issues is counter productive.

Peace, Jack


doug July 23, 2011 at 8:23 am

jack thank you for your comments.i revisited the column and don’t see how i missed any point except not commenting on the bench theft,which by the way was a terrible thing to have happen anywhere in this see it is another example of free speach under attack,how it was a memorial to a young man who died much to soon and one person decided on his own that the bench was not for him,one person.this had a negetive effect on the many,the masses if you will.the first part of the article adressed inane tee shirts,bumper stickers and tourist stuff.i do feel your pain with the bush bumper stickers though,you see i have quietly have had to endure all the obama stickers myself,having said that i would NEVER infringe upon any one’s right to use those stickers for there own personel political views,again to do so in my opion would be a clear attack on our first ammendment rights . jack it’s been a pleasure,have a great day.


Christopher Moore July 23, 2011 at 11:19 am

Criticizing speech you don’t like isn’t an attack on free speech, it is itself also free speech.

The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, not the right to never be criticized for anything you say.


doug July 23, 2011 at 12:41 pm

agreed,but would you also say that about public forums,public papers,in which people are censored becuse of a statement or thought that you don’t agree with,criticizing a comment IS INDEED another form of free speach but when that comment is censored in a public forum becuse someone does not like it’s content and does not allow other people in that same public forum to make the decision on there own wheather it’s right or wrong then that’s censorship,and that goes against the first amendment on free speach.


Christopher Moore July 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

No, it isn’t.

It may arguably be shortsighted, but it’s not illegal.

The First Amendment prevents the government from abridging free speech, but it doesn’t mean that the owners of a message board are prohibited from exercising control over their own site, or pruning any comments they don’t like.

It basically just means the government can’t throw you in jail for what you say.


doug July 23, 2011 at 1:47 pm

see you had free speach an were not cesored,i may not agree with your point but i would fight for you to be able to make that point in full AND uncensored period. great comment shows that you are thinking and not just sitting back leting your mind turn to putty,have a great day chris.


Christopher Moore July 23, 2011 at 2:21 pm

You too, it’s been an interesting discussion.


tj July 24, 2011 at 7:14 am

If you’re interested, here’s the story behind the signs & the artist – its a pretty good read.


john July 27, 2011 at 6:32 am

A couple of points come to mind, one, the writer seems to hold the store/owners in obvious contempt, far deeper than merely this T-shirt should have invoked. I think maybe before I fired off a rant about it I’d have gone inside and asked them about it, and gauged their sentiments on the matter-do they hate Mexicans or are they merely supportive of US laws on immigration? Are they just hanging T-shirts out for sale they picked off a catalog page and didn’t think the message was that big a deal?

The second thing is about this “tolerance”. All humans have a sympathetic bone, though some have more than others. This has always been a strong point of OB, most everyone who lives here seems willing and ready to reach out to those in need so the sympathy toward “immigrants” is understandable and shared. However the sign stands for something else- illegal immigrants, people were running across the highways to avoid being caught in checkpoints. Illegal immigration prevents honest people who go through the necessary procedures for legal immigration from coming here. Yet many condone it in the context that they “Are just trying to get a better life”.
I could use the same argument to justify carjacking and pistol whipping the driver of the next new BMW driving by, couldn’t I? Like someone in Guatamala looking at life in America on a TV screen, I’m looking at someone who has something beyond my means, is it okay to do whatever is necessary to get it?
I look at America, in the eyes of a poor person from Central America, like the Emerald City as Dorothy gazed at it from a distance in the Wizard of Oz. A place of greatness built by men of accomplishment, and it was possible because they were civilized and had laws to govern by. Things that are pretty loose and spotty in Central American countries far away from the Emerald City.
If we allowed the breakdown of civilization and the laws that make it possible, and condoned people doing anything they need to do to get “a better life” to get into the Emerald City, doesn’t that eventually destroy the city, by making its citizens people who easily resort to primal instinct over civilized behaviour? Don’t we have some duty to the men who built the city to preserve it?
On that issue of laws and the immigration debate- is the owner of Pacifica promoting intolerance or is he supporting US immigration law? Is the author of the article promoting tolerance or inciting anarchy? Lots of ways to look at it.


Jack July 27, 2011 at 7:24 am

Good morning John and thank you for your thoughtful post.

I will concede to you I do hold such stores in contempt. The sale of cheap, touristy goods of those I described are merely an indicia of unneeded consumerism…particularly when you have two such huge stores almost directly across the street. But as far as know, the Shell Shop and the Strand have never sold, or at least displayed out front any t-shirt which would have some sort of political statement. If anyone knows of such, I will gladly recant.

As for engaging in a dialogue with a clerk behind the counter, really John, do you think it would have been an effective or productive conversation. Probably, before I posted, I should have contacted the store owner regarding the t-shirt. But, as far as I was concerned, res ipsa loquitor.

I hope I did not come off as ranting. I was merely posing questions about the growing climate of intolerance in OB. There was an early post about regarding a t-shirt which read something about the requirement to speak English in America. I am concerned about the growing hubris of our culture and the jingoistic nature of this country which becomes so intolerant, only English speaking people are welcome.

You get to the meat of the issue when you opine, “All humans have a sympathetic bone, though some have more than others. This has always been a strong point of OB, most everyone who lives here seems willing and ready to reach out to those in need so the sympathy toward “immigrants” is understandable and shared.” This has been the case, but not so much anymore and this is the true issue I was raising. Not as a judgment, but as invitation to dialogue, as you and I are doing now.

With your argument regarding laws and doing what you need to get a better life, I believe you and I are not too far apart, although I find your analogy to car-jacking hyperbole and flawed. I do not believe anarchy is a viable option, nor do I believe the current immigration laws are effective in accomplishing what they are meant to do; allowing access to our country for work opportunities, with the eventual potential for citizenship.

Now I did not use the word “Mexican” in my post, but I did refer to immigrants, and it is a logical assumption it was the class of immigrants to which I directed the writing. With that in mind, what is your position on the dysfunctional relationship the U.S. has with its neighbors directly to the South? If you have not seen Sergio Arau’s 2004 film, “A Day Without a Mexican,” I strongly suggest you spend an hour and a half or so to see it. Afterward, I think you might ask if indeed it is anarchy toward which we are headed, who is truly at fault?

Well, that is the best I can do on one cup of coffee, thank you for the morning mental exercise.

Peace, Jack


patti January 12, 2012 at 5:44 pm

I was floored when I saw these shirts as I was coming back from stroll at the beach. I was also confused about the message that was being sent so I went in to ask the owner. Basically, he didn’t have an intelligent explanation other than he simply bought the image. This tells me that he is simply capitalizing off an anti-immigrant image and has isn’t concerned about the hate it promotes. He also had the nerve to ask me if I was a resident. These images contribute to the terrorism that local immigrant communities are facing . There is no room for hate in OB, yet he is still allowed to sell it and as OB residents we are allowing it to continue. I will continue to go in there and let him know how much I disapprove and am offended. Isn’t this the same business that not too long ago was selling t-shirts degrading the transient/homeless population? Isn’t he an immigrant or product of?


Jack January 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Well Patti, the store has actually added a new one. It is the California Bear chasing the Papa, Mama, Baby silhouette with the words, “Andela! Andela!” From my perspective, the second one did not beat around the bush at all with regard to the Mexican immigrant community.

I was going to write a follow-up, but I spoke with one of the employees from a neighboring business, who is of Mexican descent and I care not what his status is. I asked him what he thought about it. He simply shook his head and made a little “tsk” sound. Then he smiled. He said it does not matter what is out there (pointing at the shirt), it matters what is in here (putting his hand over his chest and heart). And so, I left the subject alone and decided to enjoy the day.

Peace, Jack


Patti January 12, 2012 at 8:02 pm

I think I was even more outraged when i saw the bear with the “Andale”, which is a word that means get out, go away, that kind of thing. When I shared this experience, many of my friends, who are Mexican as well, were very disturbed. In fact, a friend who was with me claearly told him that she was boycotting his shop. What’s in the heart does matter, however, there are many people who are either developing their opinions or who carry a great deal of hate towards immigrants and would love to wear these shirts. Whenever there is a really awesome shirt, poster or product that I see my friends wearing I ask them where they bought it so I can purchase it as well. If others like it as well, then the word spreads and that place becomes popular for havimg that product. Can you imagine a person who hates immigrants wearing one of these shirts and a friend of theirs wants to get one to? The answer is going to be Ocean Beach…..Suddenly there is a connection between OB and the anti- immigrant shirts…do we want to attract that to OB? When the owner printed the shirt degrading the transient population, I wonder how many people from that population were asked if it was offensive or if action was simply taken because it was hateful and offensive. I am Mexican, I am a resident of OB, have friends that are both as well and these shirts are very offensive no matter how many times I see them when I walk by.


mr.rick January 13, 2012 at 11:33 am

At one time in OB history, the only group that was discriminated against were the “Goons” from inland San Diego. Refered to as El Cajoners. It was mainly surfers bitching about people who got in the way out in the line up at some ones favorite surf break. Or possibly the black family on Abbott and Brighton. A long time ago, I realize. But being one of the offended group of surfers and also not too jazzed about them black folks, either. But, you know, people evolve sometimes. After years of scratching my “Placa” around the beach every where. (OB DAGO with a swastika or some ss lightning bolts). I found myself getting choked-up and shedding a few tears when Barak Obama was elected President. Didn’t know that particular emotion dwelled with in my suddenly humbled self. So, boycott, bitch or what ever floats your boat. Even the most hard hearted of us can have an epiphany every once in a while.So, keep up the good work and constructive dialogue. Even the worst of us might come around eventually.


Patti January 14, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Wow Mr. rick you sound so educated with those comments. Nice intelligent comeback buy the way. By the way I am not a bitch, since I am not a female dog,  but I am sure your mom’s heart melts everytime you use that very intelligent word or someone uses it towards her. If all you have to say are natzi-related comments, then there is no point arguing with you as those comments never have any factual or historical backing. I have conversated with bigots like you before and I throw out facts…and well that shuts people like you up because all you have left to say are ridiculous words like stupid,bitch….etc ( just as your idol Rodger Hitchcock since one of these incidents happened with him). I hope that one day you get some healing for all that hate you carry in your heart.


Frank Gormlie January 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Patti – I think you totally misunderstood what Mr Rick was saying. First, he never called you the “b” word. And second, he was trying to describe how someone like him – who years ago was clearly a bigot toward Blacks – felt positive emotion when the first Black president was elected, and that he grew to understand that he had changed, and that others like him can change to, and that people like you (and us) should not give up in our efforts to educate and sensitize others.


Patti January 14, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Thanks Frank. Towards the end of his response he states: “So, boycott, bitch or what ever floats your boat.” Totally unecessary. I imagined that he was attempting to say what you stated and would have seen his point in the way you have stated, if this previous statement wouldn’t have been there. You stated it so eloquently. I agree that dialoguing is important and can be done in an educated and respectable way by keeping out meaningless insults or profanity.


Patti January 14, 2012 at 12:54 pm

Or maybe he meant b****….as in complain…It’s still an insult and uneducated to state that word, whatever the context. As you can see, it brings forth negative energy and, in this case, certainly blinded me from seeing his point at first.


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